In 1911, California women won suffrage. Had anything changed in Sonoma County after a couple of years had passed? Yes, but not much for the better.

The main opponent to suffrage was the liquor industry, fearing that women voters would demand lawmakers crackdown on saloons, if not outright banning alcohol altogether. That didn’t happen, although a portion of West County did vote for prohibition in 1912, (more of an issue about farm workers and real estate values) and a few scattered communities around the state did go “dry.” The temperance movement, however, acted as if the larger push for women’s rights gave them a mandate to impose a rigid faith-based moral code that might have made the Taliban proud.

Petitions circulated around the state seeking compulsory “Sunday observance” laws at the local and/or state level. Several groups formed to gather signatures and demands varied, depending how heavily the group leaned pro-labor or pro-Christian; some wanted only a guaranteed day off but others sought to ban any form of work, sports, recreation or entertainment – presumably an exception would be made for the police so they could lock everyone up. A “day of rest” bill was considered by the state legislature in 1913 but died after an amendment added saloons to the list of businesses exempt from Sunday closing.

Nationally the largest temperance group was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and according to them our handbasket to hell was speeding there at a breakneck pace. Per a 1913 wire service story, Dr. W. A. Ruble, president of the Loma Linda “College of Medical Evangelists” told WCTU audiences that booze and immorality was driving us all nuts. “Doctor Ruble declared that if insanity continues to increase at the rate it has in the last few years, the next 100 years will see a majority absolutely insane. They will be able to run the country.” By god, consider your prophecy fulfilled, doctor.

Here in Santa Rosa, the county WCTU’s 1913 convention heard an address by Dr. Sara Wise, a physician who was the group’s “purity lecturer” in California. Her usual topics were  “social immorality” and “race betterment” (eugenics, in other words) along with the need for proper sex education because “spooning is dangerous.” The Press Democrat published the complete text of her lecture, “Dress in Relation to Vice” which is excerpted below.

According to Dr. Wise, low necklines and tight skirts fortold the End of Civilization As We Know It and everyone agreed on that. “Any one who denies that such costumes are immodest and degrading is either untruthful or inconceivably ignorant or insane, and in any case should be put under restraint.”

Wise was in highest dudgeon over “the filmy X-ray skirt, made of several yards of nothingness” (the outline of a woman’s legs could be seen when a bright light was behind) and the slit skirt, which exposed a bit of ankle or even calf. Men must be protected from temptation, according to her: “We dare not tolerate that ‘which causeth our brother to offend'” she huffed. “We must not sanction that which has so evidently the ‘appearance of evil.'”

The cartoon to the right is one of several that appeared nationally poking fun at such prurient obsession in making sure women’s legs remained thoroughly covered, but there were more than a few bluenoses who agreed with Dr. Wise and her ilk. Newspapers of 1913 were peppered with wire service stories about women hauled to court because of “immodesty.” A Few samples:

Indianapolis ordered police to check on women wearing slit skirts to ensure they also wore “undergarments.” A judge in Milwaukee fined a woman $10 for a skirt that was “too short, too tight and too much slit.” The mayor of Portland gave police broad powers to arrest women if a cop thought anything about their attire was improper. In Richmond a woman was charged with indecent exposure for a slit skirt that went to her knee; her defense was it was legal to buy it in a department store, but the judge replied that while someone could also legally buy a gun, it was against the law to use it for murder.

And it wasn’t just a bit of leg that upset some people in 1913; the Santa Rosa Republican ran a letter complaining that women shouldn’t show their teeth when they smile for a photograph. That letter might be a satirical comment on the immodest skirt kerfuffle, however; some of the writing resembles the work of humorist and historian Tom Gregory. It’s either hundred year-old trolling or someone’s very odd kink; you decide.

Passage of suffrage meant women could also serve as jurors. Although it was 1922 before women were seated on a Sonoma county Superior Court jury, there was an unusual all-woman jury convened in 1913.

The case involved two Petaluma women neighbors, Mary Stegeman and Lena Waldorf. Mrs. Stegeman’s five cows were loose and grazed on Mrs. Waldorf’s flowers. Waldorf herded them onto her own property and there was a confrontation when the Stegeman kids tried to collect them. Mrs. Waldorf was said to have “punched” and pushed the girls. Although they had no bruises or other signs of injury, Mrs. Waldorf was charged with battery. She was found guilty but fined only one dollar.

Coverage by the Santa Rosa Republican seems mildly insulting by noting she would be judged by a “jury of her peeresses” who were “juroresses,” but those were legitimate forms of address at the time, albeit awkward. The Press Democrat, however, assigned Dorothy Ann, their gossip columnist who never hesitated to wrinkle her snoot at women she presumed to be her lesser.

Dorothy Ann remarked Mrs. Waldorf was “a plain little woman” but reserved her ample condescension for the jurors, whom she described as “half-frightened” and simple, even childlike:

Introductions were numerous and for a space of time the scene only needed a well appointed tea table to convince one tea would soon be served. The flashes of colors radiating from the pretty summer gowns enhanced this impression and the chatter bordered on the common place. It was as every day. There was little said of the near approaching trial. A lively discussion as to the merits of doing early ironing ensued and when a street vendor passed yelling “Apricots,” the prospective jury rushed to the window to view his fruit.

As the trial wore on, the PD reported jurors were anxious because “it was long past the lunch hour and wives showed visible signs that they were worried over what husbands might get (or not get) to eat.” One juror said she was leaving and county counsel yelled at her to sit down. “And Miss Cassidy sat down, not having the slightest idea that she might have been fined for contempt of court.” Bravo, Dorothy Ann; that’s a grand slam of sexist snark.

(RIGHT: “The latest candidate for a position on the Santa Rosa police force, Maggie McGiure [sic], of Los Angeles.” Maggie McGuire was a fictional character in serialized stories about a jewel thief who committed robberies in disguise. Note the slit skirt. Cartoon from the Santa Rosa Republican, August 26, 1913)

A month later, Dorothy Ann – or maybe, the PD headline editor – threw a dismissive jab at the proposal to hire a female police officer by saying she would be a “copette.” Perhaps because this was being advocated by “prominent club women,” her article was straight-forward and sympathetic to the idea.

We finish our tour of suffrage updates with the good news that a “well known hotel keeper” in Santa Rosa was arrested after a complaint was made by Mamie Erickson, who was fired after demanding overtime for working 10-11 hour shifts as a cook. Under state law passed just before the suffrage vote, women could work only eight hours a day. The law was viewed as discriminatory because it gave employers an incentive to fire women who worked in stores and offices where a 55-hour week was common, and there were also loopholes exempting women who did the hardest manual labor. To have it turned around on an unfair employer was sweet justice.


Twelve women “good and true” will her the merits and demerits of the case of the People vs. Mrs. W. S. Waldorf of Petaluma. She is accused of having lawlessly punished the small sons of Fred Stageman of that city. The father swore to the complaint for the arrest and trial of Mrs. Waldorf, and a jury of her peeresses will decide as to the guilt of the accused. Deputy Sheriff Rasmussen has been working two days rounding up the dozen juroresses who may qualify for the trial, which will take place in Petaluma Friday. The case is attracting much attention around the Town of the Little Chicks, as its final disposition may establish a precedent regarding women juries at least in that vicinity.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 10, 1913




Guilty and recommended to the mercy of the Court!

That was the verdict rendered by the first twelve women in Sonoma county selected to do jury duty in the case of the People vs. Mrs. W. S. Waldorf, held in the justice court in Petaluma, Friday morning. Judge George T. Harlow heard the charge of battery. The defendant, Mrs. W. S. Waldorf, was represented by Attorney Fred S. Howell and the case of the People was ably pleaded by Attorney Gil P. Hall.

The Crowd Gathers

Shortly before 10 o’clock Friday morning a swish of petticoats was heard coming down the hall leading to Judge Harlow’s court in Petaluma. A moment later the doorway framed several attractive looking women who sighed with relief when they discovered they were not late for the trial. They seated themselves in the small justice court and for the space of ten minutes there was a buzz of animated conversation only broken by the interruption of the arrival of more women. Politeness prevailed on all sides. Introductions were numerous and for a space of time the scene only needed a well appointed tea table to convince one tea would soon be served. The flashes of colors radiating from the pretty summer gowns enhanced this impression and the chatter bordered on the common place. It was as every day. There was little said of the near approaching trial. A lively discussion as to the merits of doing early ironing ensued and when a street vender [sic] passed yelling “Apricots,” the prospective jury rushed to the window to view his fruit. But this not last long. The defendant and plaintiff appeared with their attorneys and the court was soon called.

The Jury Sworn

A half-frightened expression appeared on the faces of the women when they were questioned as to their ability to give a fair and impartial trial; to cast aside all personal views; to be governed by facts; and to allow no sympathy to enter into their final conclusions. Frightened surely some of them were, but fully awake to their responsibility. Only one of the first twelve jurors’ names drawn was challenged. Mrs. W. J. Hickey admitted an acquaintanceship with the plaintiff and was not accepted. When duly selected the women settled themselves to listen to the testimony. They turned intelligent faces towards the witnesses and at all times paid the strictest attention. An occasional frown or smile crossed their faces as the trial proceeded and the case developed.

 The Point at Issue

Mrs. W. S. Waldorf, a plain little woman, was accused of striking the children of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Stegeman. When sifted down to a fine point the history of the case was little else than a neighborhood scrap, in which five cows being driven to pasture were left alone on the public highway in front of the home of the defendant and were very impolitely chewing up the flower garden of said defendant over the fence. Mrs. Waldorf in trying to protect her property drove the cowns into her own yard, and refused to allow Mary and Lena Stegeman to take them when they demanded them. Mrs. Waldorf armed herself with a horsewhip, and according to the testimony of Mary Stegeman, struck her, not sufficiently to bruise, and “punched” her. The word punch was finally decided to be a punishing blow. Mary and Lena Stegeman  ran home and told their mother what had happened and Dora Stegeman, aged 13, rushed out of the house to the backdoor of Mrs. Waldorf and demanded the cows. Mrs. Waldorf refused to acknowledge the whereabouts of the cows, and Dora is accredited with being very impertinent, whereupon Mrs. Waldorf ordered her off the place. Dora refused to go and Mrs. Waldorf, coming out of the door, picked up the whip, and with it in her hand pushed the child out the gate with her left hand.

 The Defendant

Mrs. Waldorf, in appearance was a sweet-faced woman. She was plain and unassuming. The fact that the jury decoded against her in no way convinced me that her intentions were other than that of an exasperaten [sic] woman who had seen her flower and vegetable gardens eaten and trampled more than once by neighborhood cows. The fact remained though and she herself admitted it on the stand, that she did “push” the children away and it was this that convicted her. A very slight blow can institute charges for battery!

 Case Goes to the Jury

When the testimony was all in and the charges given to the jury, Deputy Sheriff R. L. Rasmussen appeared and locked them up. After an interim of ten minutes the verdict as quoted above was read. Judge Harlow fined Mrs. Waldorf the sum of $1.

 An Amusing Incident

During the last twenty minutes of the trial the jury was unquestionably getting very nervous and anxious to get away. It was long past the lunch hour and wives showed visible signs that they were worried over what husbands might get (or not get) to eat. A heated argument was being held by the attorneys and for a few minutes it looked as if the trial might be held over in afternoon session. Miss Cassidy, afterwards forewoman of the jury, arose and announced she would not stay.

“Sit down!” yelled Mr. Hall.

And Miss Cassidy sat down, not having the slightest idea that she might have been fined for contempt of court.

 The Democratic Jury

The personnel of the jury was democratic. It knew no social lines. Society women rubbed elbows with plain, little housewives; and women earnest in lodge affiliations sat by arden church workers. It made not the slightest difference what club, church, lodge, or home they came out of, they agreed that no woman was justified in striking another woman’s child.

The jury women were as follows: [..]

– Press Democrat, July 12, 1913


(By Dorothy Ann)

There is almost a unanimous expression among prominent club women for the appointment of a woman on the police force. Men and women who take an active interest in the social and civic welfare of the up-to-date city agree that a woman on the force today is almost a necessity. The idea is not new or untried, but cities of any importance both in California and the East have found her work of manifold help with women and children. Santa Rosa women are much interested at the present time.

“What we need in Santa Rosa,” said a well known woman to me the other day, “is a policewoman. That would solve some of these unanswerable problems we hear about.”

Los Angeles appointed the first policewoman in the personage of Alice Stebbens Wells. Many will remember the quiet, little woman who lectured here months ago. At that time she explained to me how perfectly rational her duties were. She watched all police interests in which women and children were concerned. She befriended the unfortunate girl, guided the silly girl and mothered the homeless girl. She watched the dance halls and dark corners of the moving picture shows. She made arrests when necessary and pressed her cases with the same assurances as the policemen. And all so quietly, so unobstrusively [sic] that men gasped at her ability.

The right woman on the police force in Santa Rosa would be a step in the right direction. Intuitively she would guard and mother the girls whose home conditions do not conduce to moral uplift.

– Press Democrat, August 19, 1913


By Woman Required To Work Long hours

A well known hotel keeper was arrested by Constable Sam Gilliam Monday morning upon a complaint sworn to by Mamie Erickson, who charged her employer with violation of the state law prohibiting the employment the employment of women for more than eight hours in a day. It is alleged that she required Erickson woman, who was acting as a cook, to work for ten and sometimes eleven hours.

A demand for extra pay for overtime was met with a refusal, and a summary dismissal according to the employee’s story, and the result is the filing of the charge.

The law in question has never been invoked in this county before. It is very strict in its terms, holding for not more than forty-eight hours in a week, nor more than eight hours in every twenty-four for any woman employee.

– Santa Rosa Republican, September 29, 1913


In Paper Before the W.C.T.U. Convention Here, Dr. Wise Strongly Condemns “Slit Skirts,” “Tight Skirts,” and the “Filmy X-Ray Gown” as Being Immodest and Creators of Sensation

“Whether it be the slit skirt, or the tight skirt, of the filmy X-ray skirt, made of several yards of nothingness, the result and the desire are the same–to show the figure as much as is possible and as much of the figure as possible–without getting arrested.”
– Dr. Sara Wise

At the recent convention of the Sonoma County Woman’s Christian Temperance Union held in Santa Rosa, a paper, written by Sara Wise of San Francisco, a woman who has been prominent and active in temperance and Christian Endeavor work in the metropolis and State created much interest. Dr. Wise, in her paper on “Dress in Relation to Vice,” handled the subject without gloves. The Press Democrat has been requested to give the paper space in its columns and this morning prints Dr. Wise’s effort in full as follows:

(By Dr. Sara Wise)
Dress may be an indication of the degree of civilization of a people. It is also, to some extend, indicative of character, manners and morals.

The first mention of dress or covering for the body, was of aprons of leaves sewed together and worn, not for comfort, warmth or adornment, but because the knowledge of good and evil had come into life. Something had gone wrong. Shame had developed…

…Modesty is not only a beautiful and attractive quality in man or woman. It has its origin in sex and is a necessity for sex protection. Modesty is the shield the race has raised to safeguard its progress in ideals. When through long years of unbridled passion, of license, of lack of self-control, man has thrown down that shield, then it immediately becomes of vast importance as to what constitutes real modesty on dress and conduct. Any fashion in dress or conduct or amusement which is suggestive, or seductive, or tempting to the passions of man or woman; anything which leads to the idea of indifference to ideals for the one, or makes attainment of ideals impossible for another; anything which removes the barriers of restraint between the sexes, or encourages impure thoughts and undue familiarity should be decried; yes, should be most assiduously opposed, even to open war by all those who value safety of children and youth, or the perpetuity of the nation…

…Decent men and women are rebelling at the outrageous costumes of some of our women, not only of the society women, who ape the styles of the demimonde of Paris, but the working girl and the high school girl who ape the society women.

They are not worn for either comfort or beauty, but solely to be “in style.” They who wear them will declare quite earnestly that they are comfortable and very beautiful and artistic. They would, however, be the very ones to insist that such gowns were hideous and horribly uncomfortable if any other style prevailed.

Whether it be the slit skirt, or the tight skirt, or the filmy X-ray skirt made of “several yards of nothingness,” the result and the desire are the same–to show the figure as much as is possible and as much of the figure as possible–without getting arrested. Any one who denies that such costumes are immodest and degrading is either untruthful or inconceivably ignorant or insane, and in any case should be put under restraint.

I say unhesitatingly that the woman or girl who is immodest in her dress will be immodest and impure in her thinking and when a real temptation arises will inevitably be immodest in her conduct…

…The great crime in allowing high school girls, or other girls, to dress immodestly in any respect, is because they are in their most emotional age–the teen age–the time of physical awakening, which means the time of greatest unrest and mystery, the time for greatest care and caution. Because they are peculiarly sensitive to impression a very little thing will turn the scale in the wrong direction. That which robs the girl of her greatest sex protection, her modesty, it is criminal to destroy. It seems almost as if some of the fashionable, or would-be fashionable mothers, would rather have their daughters fashionable than pure; rather in style than safe; rather have her “stunning” and the envy of her girl friends, than the source of noble inspiration to both girl and boy friends.

Some forms of immodest dress, our civilization has permitted to become a custom. The very low neck of the ball room, is certainly not exactly modest.

The action of the Roman Catholic prelates of Canada prohibiting the wearing of low-neck evening gowns at church functions is more eloquent than a sermon. The libertine, alias the man of the world, may not care how much of the female figure is exposed–the more the better. He will flatter and encourage and say it looks “cute” and “fetching.” But it is the men who are making a strong fight for their own purity of life, who rebel at the insidious temptation…

…Let the Christian people but unite in emphatic protest against all immodesty and immorality in dress and such would soon cease to be “good form.” We dare not tolerate that “which causeth our brother to offend.” We must not sanction that which has so evidently the “appearance of evil.”

– Press Democrat, September 24, 1913



Mr. Editor: It there is anything more silly than the present custom of taking women’s pictures with an open mouth to show their teeth. It is hard to find, and when a forced grin is added, it surely tops the climax. The natural, normal pose of the human features used to be considered the proper thing in a picture, and with sensible women, it is yet; but the rage for open mouths is on, and like the hobble skirt must have its run, the way it looks. But all of life is full of follies and ever has been, so Pope’s advice to “shoot folly as it flies” will always keep the shooter busy  if he complies.

Answer, We don’t know, have no mans of knowing, never expect to know. Why a woman, not insane, one of the sex devoted to a life effort to look well, should get herself into the grotesqueness of a set grin and preserve that facial distortion in a photograph is beyond human conception. Those deface faces frequently remind us of the phiz of a gargoyle on the eve waterspout of an ancient building. But or correspondent will have to let the fashion of appearing ridiculous run its course. Any attempt to mitigate would only accentuate.

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 17, 1913


Read More


After California women won the right to vote in 1911, everyone watched the first elections of 1912 to see whether the winds had changed, particularly concerning one issue: prohibition.

Passage of the amendment to the state constitution had not been easy – it won by a narrow two percent statewide and by four points in Sonoma county. Petaluma, Sonoma, Windsor and Healdsburg all voted against allowing women to vote; local support was only enthusiastic in Santa Rosa, where male voters approved by a 14 point margin. Suffragists were fought every step of the way by a coalition of social conservatives and the national liquor industry, together dubbed the “anti’s” in the press.

(This is the third and final article on the campaign for women’s suffrage in California. For background see part I, “WILL MEN LET THE LADIES VOTE?” and “THE SUMMER WHEN WOMEN WON THE VOTE.”)

Predictably, the anti’s carped about the measure passing and there were noises about a Sonoma County recount, but nothing came of it. One of the most vocal member of that faction was state Senator J. B. Sanford (D-Ukiah), also editor and publisher of the Ukiah Dispatch-Democrat, who put his unique spin on the results to make it sound as if men had foolishly decided to force women to vote against their will: “The ballot on Equal Suffrage was not a fight between the men and women, but was rather a fight between the women, and the men were called in to decide the matter…it seemed that a majority of women did not wish to assume the extra duty, but the men have said, ‘Ladies, you must vote.'” Still, he encouraged the women of Ukiah to register “…and thus offset the evil that might arise from giving the ballot to some women in the large cities.”

Sanford also couldn’t resist throwing one final misogynist bomb: “[Women] will have to go to the county clerk’s office and submit to many formalities, among which will be to give their visible marks and scars, age and previous condition of servitude, all of which will be open to inspection.”

(RIGHT: This April, 1912 advertisement ran in the Santa Rosa Republican a few days before the first local elections where women could vote, one of several display ads that month with a similar voting theme)

Some confusion arose in the weeks following passage. Technically the amendment didn’t become law until 90 days after the election, but women were already lining up to register in some places; county clerks added women registrars to help. The first woman to register in Sonoma County on Jan. 2, 1912 was Mrs. Jennie Colvin – a milestone little noticed by either Santa Rosa paper – and she wasn’t asked about any scars, or even her exact age; the legislature had changed the voter requirements after the amendment passed, and now the voter only had to swear that he or she was over the age of 21. They still required height be recorded for ID purposes, which caused a minor problem because women at the time wore elaborate hats that could be difficult to position without a mirror. So the County Clerk installed a mirror in the office.

There was also uncertainty whether or not women would have to pay the poll tax to vote, as that part of the election law named only males. It was was quickly decided that women were exempt unless voters passed another amendment to change the language, which was in a different section of the state constitution. Aside from that issue and the need for mirrors, registering new women voters went smoothly and the county soon had an all-time high of over 17 thousand voters. Republicans outnumbered Democrats more than two-to-one, a proportion that must have unnerved Ernest Finley, editor of the fiercely-partisan Press Democrat.

In an ill-conceived Sunday editorial, the PD suggested women needed a “class in politics” to educate them about the differences between Dems and Repubs so they could be sure to pick the right team. A blistering letter to the editor followed in the Santa Rosa Republican, almost certainly written by the indomitable Frances McG. Martin, titled, “MOST WOMEN ARE NOT IDIOTS”.

It starts out with a request for nonpartisan instruction, and closes with a prayer to “politicians” to tell her why she is a Democrat or Republican…The men and women who worked for the enfranchisement of California women, worked with the hope that women would not prove to be blindly and passionately partisan, and that they would not adopt the methods of the professional politicians and wire puller; but, since the just men gave us the ballot, the women who worked against the cause or were indifferent, have displayed a very lively interest in politics of the old brand. Women are not all idiots, then why should there be such a hue and cry, raised about instructing them as to what they believe and how to prepare and write a ballot?

Then came the local elections that April. Women were eager to vote; the Republican paper told the story of Santa Rosa Police chief Boyes leaving home before dawn to setup polling places, promising his wife he would later “send an automobile for her and some other ladies in the neighborhood” so they could vote. By the time he returned home for breakfast, Cora Boyes had already gone out and cast her ballot as the first voter in their city ward.

Then there was the matter of the prohibition vote. About twenty California towns had ballot items to decide if their community would go “dry.” Locally, Cloverdale held a series of spirited public meetings; at the weekend rally before the vote, Andrea Sbarboro (male), the founder of the Italian Swiss Colony in Asti, made a rare public appearance to speak against the proposal. In the end the township of Cloverdale voted for leaders who promised to clean up the saloons – particularly gambling and serving liquor to minors – but rejected outright prohibition by an almost 2:1 majority. Overall, about half of the towns voting on alcohol went dry; in the Bay Area, only Los Gatos and Mountain View closed their saloons. “FEMALE OF SPECIES AS THIRSTY AS THE MALE,” quipped the Santa Rosa Republican headline. In November, however, county voters did pass an anti-roadhouse ordinance, about which more will be written separately.

But suffrage did not equality make; it would still be a decade in Sonoma County before women were seated on a Superior Court jury, for example. And although Senator Sanford tried to frighten men in 1911 with the image of a helpless mother sequestered late at night with eleven leering men, there were five women jurors on that trial in 1922. Turns out they didn’t need Sanford’s protection at all. Never did.

Another Amendment of the Constitution Would Be Necessary Before Tax Can Be Collected

Many opponents of woman suffrage before and after the recent election declared that the adaption of the amendment allowing women to vote would carry with it the added responsibility of paying poll tax. This, however, is not true.

The right of suffrage was given by the adoption of an amendment to Section 1 of Article 2 of the Constitution of California, and which amendment consisted of stipulating the word “male.” Women could not be allowed the right of suffrage without the addition of the amendment.

The liability for poll tax is fixed also by the constitution of the state: Section 12 of article 13 of the Constitution of the State of California reads as follows…

…So it will be readily seen that the women will not and cannot be required to pay a State poll tax without an amendment to Section 12 of article 13 of the Constitution. In the adoption of such an amendment as will require the women to pay a State poll tax the women will now have the right themselves to vote on such an amendment, and if such an amendment is adopted it necessarily must be done with their consent.

– Press Democrat,  October 20, 1911
Some Changes in Registration Laws Are Noted

The recent legislature made a number of changes in the form of the registration blanks used in the registering of voters for the coming elections. The changes were made mostly for the accommodation of women, as a voter under the new law will not have to give his or her age, nor visible marks or scars. The only requirement about the age is that the voter must swear that he or she is over the age of 21 years.

There might be a little dispute over the question of whether the husband or the wife is the head of the house, but the decision is that this question must be settled in the home.

The question of naturalization is also different from the old blanks. A woman of foreign birth must state how she became a citizen–if she became one by the naturalization of her father when she was a minor, by the decree of the court, or by marriage. If by marriage, she must state when she was married, and if she registered under one name and afterwards married, she must re-register. The same rule applies to change of name by divorce.

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 1, 1912

Registration of voters began at the county clerk’s office on the new year…Rev. Peter Colvin and wife, Mrs. Jennie Colvin, registered. Mrs. Colvin was the first lady to register…

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 2, 1912
Big Mirror to be Installed in the Office of the Registrar of Voters in Court House

County Clerk Feit is to install a big mirror in the County Clerk’s office which will add materially to the comfort of the women voters who visit the office for the purpose of registering.

A number of women who have called to register have not been able to give their height and have had to take off their hats prior to standing under the measure. When it came to readjusting their hats without the aid of a mirror, the effort has not proved very successful in some instances.

Hence the providing of the big looking glass by the county clerk.

– Press Democrat,  January 28, 1912



Will you please explain the following clipping, taken from the Sunday morning paper?

There has been this past fortnight several expressions regarding the establishment of a non-partisan class in politics for women. If some of the deep-thinking politicians would volunteer to discuss simple political problems from purely unselfish standpoints, they would undoubtedly be listened to with interest and pleasure. Last week one new voter asked: “Will you ask some Democrat and Republican to briefly state through the press, why I am a Democrat and why I am a Republican?” Attention! politicians, tell us why.

It starts out with a request for nonpartisan instruction, and closes with a prayer to “politicians” to tell her why she is a Democrat or Republican. A non-partisan, in politics, is one who is not blindly or passionately attached to any political party, so defined by the standard dictionaries. The men and women who worked for the enfranchisement of California women, worked with the hope that women would not prove to be blindly and passionately partisan, and that they would not adopt the methods of the professional politicians and wire puller; but, since the just men gave us the ballot, the women who worked against the cause or were indifferent, have displayed a very lively interest in politics of the old brand.

Women are not all idiots, then why should there be such a hue and cry, raised about instructing them as to what they believe and how to prepare and write a ballot? The Los Angeles women certainly demonstrated the fact that they could vote more rapidly and mark their ballots more accurately than a great many men voters. Any man or woman who is fit to cast a ballot can master the mechanical part of it in ten minutes. Each voter is furnished with a sample ballot not more than ten nor less than five days before an election. Full directions are printed upon those sample ballots, and the woman voter, as well as the man, can take her time and mark her sample ballot as she intends to vote, take it with her to the voting booth and use it as a model by which to stamp her real ballot.

No woman can vote who cannot read the constitution in the English language and write her name, then why can she not read the able editorials which appear in the leading papers and magazines, and deal with the vital questions of the day. If she have children in the public schools, let her take up with them the study of civics as set forth in a state text book of that name and sold for sixty (60) cents. Any woman can afford to buy one for herself. In the History of the United States, published by the state for use in the public schools–price eighty (80) cents–she will find both the state and national constitutions, and a history of bot the Democratic and Republican parties. If she desires to study Socialism, she can secure the literature of that party at a nominal price, or she can attend the lectures delivered in all parts of the country by the best Socialist speakers.

For a number of years, women, in constantly increasing numbers, have attended public political meetings; in fact, the writer has often heard men complain that the non-voters crowded out the voters; that the tired men had to stand if they wished to hear the speeches, while the women occupied their seats. Now, why do they not know whether they are Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, nonpartisan, etc.? Women have now, as they have always had, men relatives and friends, who are willing to talk over all kinds of questions with them, but why pose as idiots without minds of their own? I sometimes wonder that men gave the ballot to women at all, as so many women disclaim all title to reason and judgement; but I conclude that the men relatives of good, level-headed, conscientious and devoted mothers, sister, wives, daughters and sweethearts, who are strangers to afternoon bridge, divorce courts, etc., felt that such women are in the majority and that they would do their duty toward their homes, state and nation.

Women of Sonoma county, it is our duty to inform ourselves by reading, conversation and observation as to the measures most important to be voted upon, the candidates most likely to carry out the best of those measures, if elected, and vote accordingly; to vote for the best measures and best candidates, irrespective of party lines, and not need to be “told” by somebody just how we must vote; after hearing all sides, let us conscientiously decide that for ourselves.

Let us vote for members of the legislature and congress who are not so anxious to make new laws, as to simplify and embody in plain English the laws now in existence, so that any citizen of common intelligence may read and understand them, and it may not require years for the courts to interpret them.

And let us no longer play at being feeble-minded–the day has passed when that pose appeals to any man whose regard is worth having.


– Santa Rosa Republican, March 12, 1912
Some Interesting Happening With the Fair Suffragists

Santa Rosa’s first election at which the ladies voted has almost passed into history and that it was all the better for the influence which the ladies exerted cannot be doubted even by those who have heretofore been opposed to the injection of the ladies into politics. Many had caused their names to be placed on the great register, giving their ages, to be permitted to cast their ballots at this election. They are the pioneers in the suffrage cause. The others, who waited until the law made it unnecessary to give their ages, failed to get the privilege of the ballot at the municipal election.

During the hours of the forenoon and afternoon the ladies went to the polls, many preferring to walk and cast their vote than to avail themselves of the time-honored custom of the men to ride in automobiles or buggies. To show that they were awake to the privileges and enthusiastic, some of them were at the polls quite early in the morning.

In at least two instances ladies were absolutely the first to vote…

…At 12 o’clock figures were obtained from each of the polls in the city, and the table given below shows the the total number of votes cast, and the number of women who had voted: [Votes cast to that time: 808 “Ladies”: 284]

Many amusing incidents were narrated on the fair sex, one being to the effect that one lady left her ballot lying on the desk after having marked it, and failed to hand it to the judge of election to be placed in the ballot box, and that another lady marked her ballot and then calmly folded it up and placed it in her pocket.

Chief of police Boyes arose at 4:30 o’clock Tuesday morning to go with City Clerk Charles D. Clawson to distribute the election ballots and paraphernalia. Mrs. Boyes asked her husband regarding her going to the polls and he informed her that during the afternoon he would send an automobile for her and some other ladies in the neighborhood. After the chief had gone, Mrs. Boyes arose and dressed herself, wended her way to the polls and when Chief Boyes had returned to his breakfast, the good wife calmly informed him that she had cast her ballot.


– Santa Rosa Republican, April 2, 1912

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When setting the dial on your time machine, there were few better years to be in Santa Rosa than 1911. Yeah, it wasn’t that long ago I said the same thing about 1910, but I was young and ignorant back then, eight months ago.

This was the year Santa Rosa finally was catching up to Bay Area cities; downtown was looking more cosmopolitan with its paved streets, electric signs and several vaudeville and movie theaters. We were even in the movies; the popular Essanay Film Company came to Santa Rosa and shot a few scenes in town, including a chase down Fourth street. There were car ads in nearly every edition of the Press Democrat and autos or motorcycles were everywhere, thanks in great part to the new option of buying on credit.

The big event of 1911 was Fred J. Wiseman’s flight from Petaluma to Santa Rosa. Decades later we found out it was kinda historic, but at the time everyone was cranked up for three days waiting to hear the factory whistles, bells, and “succession of bomb explosions” which would cue them to dash quickly outside in hopes of a glimpse of Wiseman soaring over downtown. He actually crashed outside city limits, of course, but it was still exciting that he almost made it. And then there was the enjoyment of reading the juvenile (but hilarious!) squabbling between the editors of the two papers over which of them liked Fred best.

This was also the year when (male) voters would decide whether women had a right to vote, and two of the most prominent fighters on both sides were in the North Bay. Passage was by no means assured; passions ran high for months as both sides tried to persuade the public it was the right thing to do – or that it would lead to the end of civilization. Before it came down to the nail-biting vote, Sonoma County and the entire Bay Area had been blanketed with banners, posters, leaflets and postcards from the suffragists and the “anti’s.”

On the seamier side, Santa Rosa was mesmerized by two big events. The year began with the jury verdict in the Burke trial, where an esteemed local physician and health spa owner was charged with trying to kill his mistress and infant son with dynamite. And in late autumn, there was a terrible scandal that involved poison pen letters and a prominent women’s social club acting as vigilantes. Although both local papers tried to downplay the scandal, before it was over there were two suicides that could not be ignored.

As this is the last main entry for 1911, here are some little updates to previous stories and other bits of “string too small to save,” followed by a selection of ads that captured the spirit of the times.

* Shortly after the women’s right to vote was placed on the ballot, California passed a law that limited women to no more than eight hours of work a day or 48 hours a week. Loopholes exempting women who did the hardest manual labor was one reason it was controversial; it also gave employers an incentive to fire women who worked in stores and offices (read more details here). Once it was enacted Santa Rosa businesses were heard to gripe loudly – apparently many women had been expected to work 55 hours a week or more. Store managers complained it would force them to stagger shifts or have male employees pick up the extra work. Read between the lines of the article below, however, and you’ll find they were worried men couldn’t be trusted with the cash register or keep from screwing up the inventory.

* The Santa Rosa papers were unabashedly parochial when it came to doings around town, reporting on who grew a big turnip and who had invited friends over for cards, but very rarely did they scrape up news about someone getting new furniture. The only exceptions I recall are for pieces made by master craftsman Frank S. Smith, who created them in his home workshop on Ripley street. He was last mentioned in 1909 when he built a 14-foot dining room table for the owners of Hood Mansion (photo here), and in 1911 he finished a complete living room and reception hall set for pharmacist Hahman and his family. The interesting angle is that the furniture was intended to harmonize with the house – which was built the year before and designed by Brainerd Jones. The home at 718 McDonald Avenue is the fourth Shingle Style design that Jones created in Santa Rosa and is the most conventional. Where the 1902 Paxton House, 1905 Comstock House and 1908 Saturday Afternoon Club were in the Eastern Shingle Style that tried to be both rustic and elegant, the Hahman House is more like an example of the Prairie School – an American Foursquare with Craftsman features. Still, it must have seemed shockingly modern amidst McDonald Avenue’s row of dull Victorian mansions.

* Now out of jail and 50 years old, the life of Joe Forgett continued to be a slow-motion train wreck. Back in 1907 he made headlines by leading a breakout at the Sonoma County jail where ten prisoners overpowered the guard. Among the inmates was his wife, behind bars for “vagrancy” – the usual charge for prostitution – and later at trial, Joe said he had to escape because jailor “old Fred” was putting the moves on his wife. His family pled for mercy because he had been an opium addict for fifteen years. Joe’s wife left him in 1911 and he petitioned for divorce which was a bit unusual, seeing that the couple was childless and poor (Joe lived until 1940 and was buried in the county’s Potter’s Field as an indigent). He was also in the papers earlier that year for failing to return a horse and buggy he borrowed in order to talk to someone about a job. “After transacting his business, Forgett forgot that he had driven to the place, and walked away, leaving the horse standing in front of the residence where he had called,” reported the Santa Rosa Republican.

* The “wild man of Mendocino county” was found dead at the entrance to his cave near Hopland, and predictably the news was reported in Santa Rosa and other papers around the Bay Area. As mentioned here earlier, newspapers loved “wild men” stories and reprinted them even if the poor lunatic was wandering in the woods hundreds of miles away. Often it was followed with an ancillary item about someone hoping the guy might be a long-lost relative; after “Aemldo” Secso – also called Amedo Sesco and earlier, Amelio Regoni – was caught in 1909, a mother contacted Cloverdale police to ask if the man could be her son. And sure enough, while searching for updates to that story in a newspaper database, I found another “wild man of Mendocino county” account from 1949, and this time a woman thought the hermit could be her hubby, who suffered PTSD from his time in a German prisoner of war camp.

* San Francisco doctor Eugene West, who performed a 1909 abortion on a young Santa Rosa woman who later died, was again arrested after 22 year-old Laura Taylor also developed life-threatening complications. As with the earlier case, no charges were apparently filed against him. It was the second abortion that year for the former Santa Rosa resident, who was now cutting cloth in San Francisco. As per usual, the newspapers never mentioned the word “abortion” and called it the “malpractice” or “criminal operation.”

The Native Sons of the Golden West held their convention in Santa Rosa, which tripled the town’s population for the weekend as residents were asked to register any available rooms in their home to accommodate visitors. This odd front page of the Republican might have been a giveaway to conventioneers. 

Constitutionality of Law to be Tested In Los Angeles

The law making it compulsory not to employ women over eight hours a day, or 48 hours a week, has upset the routine of work in stores and factories in this city to a considerable extent, just as it has all over California. The law went into effect Monday morning. Most of the merchants find little trouble in regulating the work for most of the days of the week, but Saturday is the day that bothers the merchants. How to arrange for keeping open stores on Saturday night, there’s the rub. Most of the merchants believe that eight hours a day is long enough for women to work, but find themselves at a loss just how to arrange that Saturday night proposition. This may result in an effort to have the stores close Saturday evening the same as on other evenings. With this idea in view the question will be presented to the Chamber of Commerce in an effort to bring about some agreement among the merchants in the matter.

The merchant is confronted by another feature that is troublesome. That is, shortening the hours of the cashier. In most cases there is one cashier, who has the complete handling of the cash and in that way she is entirely responsible for her cash balance, but she cannot now be employed over eight hours a day. The proprietor of the place of business that is open from 8 o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock will take care of the cash for those hours that the cashier is not present until he has figured out some other way it can be carried out just as safe as at present.

This being open on Saturday night would be all right if any person without experience could go into a store and be a competent clerk. An experienced clerk must get acquainted with his stock to be capable. The employment of inexperienced persons invariably result in stock becoming badly disarranged and in unintentional blunders. For that reason the stores do not like to put on additional help. The question has been raised, “Does the law affect the employment of girls doing housework?”

A. T. Sutherland, of the Santa Rosa Department Store, says he has not arranged for the Saturday evening difficulty. He is complying with the eight hour law by having the women help come to the store at 9 o’clock, the men clerks attending to the customers who come to work earlier than that.

The Pioneer laundry has discontinued paying by the day, and instead pays by the hour. The flat work price has been raised a trifle and the girls come to work at different hours and quit according to the time they begin work.

The Domestic French Laundry states that their help will begin at 8 o’clock and quit at 5 o’clock.

The Santa Rosa French Laundry states that the law does not affect it, as it has always observed the eight hour day.

The Red Front, Max Rosenberg proprietor, has not completed his arrangements for Saturday nights. He is an advocate of the plan favoring the closing of the dry goods department at 6 o’clock Saturday nights. The week is fixed for in this store by having the girls go to work at 8 o’clock one week and quitting at 5 o’clock, and the other half beginning at 9 o’clock and quitting at 6 o’clock. Each week the girls are to change these hours, the girls going to work at 9 o’clock this week being those to go to work next week at 8 o’clock and vice versa.

Carithers & Forsyth have their women help come to work at 9 o’clock. For Saturday night they plan to have their men clerks handle all the trade at present.

F. C. Loomis has made provision for compliance with the law by employing extra help.

The law is to be tested in Los Angeles and it is the belief of many that the law will be declared unconstitutional.

– Santa Rosa Republican, May 23, 1911
Designed and Made by Decorator F. S. Smith

Frank S. Smith has just completed and delivered to Paul T. Hahman one of the handsomest sets of furniture which graces the homes of the City of Roses. Mr. Smith is a decorator, and does special works in furniture and draperies. The set which he has manufactured for Mr. And Mrs. Hahman is artistic and handsome in every way. The entire work was done in Mr. Smith’s small workshop on his premises at 1209 Ripley street.

The furniture made by the Santa Rosan was for the reception hall and living room of the handsome Hahman residence. A reception chair, cozy arm chair, table and tabouret were designed and made for the reception hall. The furniture for the living room included a mammoth Davenport, two large rockers, one large easy chair, a window chair, pedestal tabouret and large table with drawer.

Mr. Smith claims for this set of furniture that there has been nothing made where the identical lines are carried out and still secure the uniform lines are carried out and still secure the uniform lines as in the pieces he has turned out for Mr. Hahman. It was designed and made exclusively for the Hahman home, and to harmonize with the other furnishings and draperies of the residence. Mr. Smith manufactures furniture of different designs for each particular home. He has made an elegant dining room set for Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns of Kenwood.

All of the furniture for Mr. Hahman is upholstered in a silk damask of conventional figure, in two tones of brown. The elegant Davenport is 78 inches long and 30 inches deep. All of the furniture is equipped with sunken leather casters, which prevents scratching the polished floors of the home. It is all made of heavy quarter sawed oak and finished with a handsome piano polish, which makes it have an appearance of elegance seldom found in furniture.

 – Santa Rosa Republican, April 7, 1911

Joe Forgett, the cement contractor of this city, had an absent minded spell on Monday, and forgot to return a horse which he borrowed from Stewart & McDoughall, local plumbers.

The horse and vehicle were loaned Forgett to drive to the home of a prospective customer, and the firm did not know where the man had driven the animal. After transacting his business, Forgett forgot that he had driven to the place, and walked away, leaving the horse standing in front of the residence where he had called.

When the animal was not returned at closing time for the plumbing firm, Charles Stewart made a tour of many sections of the city looking for the animal. Many people were notified of the missing property and these were also on the lookout for the horse and wagon.

About 8:30 o’clock Monday evening Jack Sarraihl discovered the missing property out on Charles street. In the mean time Stewart had ridden many miles on a bicycle seeking his property.

 – Santa Rosa Republican, February 21, 1911
Failed to Return; Husband Seeks Divorce

Joseph N. Forget, who has resided here for many years, has petitioned the Superior Court for a decree of divorce. The papers were filed on Monday and in due time the petitioner expects that the decree will be awarded him. The defendant is Jessie Isadore Forget and she is charged with desertion. That Mrs. Forget went away and forgot to return is the burden of the complaint of the husband. Attorney Ross CAmpbell represents Forget.

 – Santa Rosa Republican, November 6, 1911

Death last week ended the career of Aemldo Secso, who was for a number of years known as the “wild man of Mendocino county.” The man lived for years on the pilferings he made from logging camps, and although every endeavor was made to capture him, he avoided arrest for several years. Finally he was captured and after being imprisoned he returned to his old haunts, but forgot some of his wildness. He died in Mendocino county.

– Press Democrat, September 24, 1911
The Police of San Francisco Acted Friday

Dr. Eugene West of San Francisco  has been charged with having committed an unlawful operation on Miss Laura Taylor, a Sonoma county girl, by the police of that city.

Miss Taylor has been removed from the Central Emergency hospital to the Lane hospital, where on Friday she was hovering between life and death. It is not believed she can survive, her condition being such as to almost preclude the possibility of her being saved.

William Patterson, an electrician, is being held as an accomplice to the alleged crime. He admits that he knew the girl had an operation performed by Dr. West last March, and says that recently she telephoned him asking for financial assistance for another operation. Patterson denies that he has seen the girl for three months past.

 – Santa Rosa Republican, October 13, 1911

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